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3BoT Vol. 22: Three Books About Making Marriage Work

Thursday, August 1, 2013

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3BoT Vol. 22: Three Books About Making Marriage Work | Faith Permeating Life

The first Thursday of every month, I share three related book recommendations with you. You are invited to link up at the end of the post with three recommendations of your own! Click here for more info about Three Books on Thursday.

It's Thursday, August 1, which means two things: It's time for a Three Books on Thursday post, and it's our wedding anniversary! Happy fourth anniversary to my wonderful and amazing husband!

In celebration of our marriage still being awesome four years later, and inspired by a friend's wedding we attended last weekend, I'm dedicating this month's recommendations to books about making marriage work. I've recommended books for couples before, and books about marriage as an institution (the history and science of marriage), but these books touch on something different: how to keep on keeping on when you've made a commitment to someone for life -- and then life happens.

Here are three books that will get you thinking about what makes a marriage last for the long haul:

#1: The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch
Like several other books I've recommended, this was originally recommended to me on a previous post. Finch's marriage was nearly at an end when his wife realized that he, like the children she worked with, might have Asperger Syndrome. One diagnosis later, she had an explanation for his irritating habits and he had a new goal: Become a better husband. Recognizing that his social instincts were not the best and that he functioned well by obeying rules, he set out to find out what his wife needed from him and write it down in his "journal of best practices." Even though Asperger's was the catalyst for his particular journey, his lessons about really listening to your partner and not always thinking of yourself first are readily applicable. And it's a good reminder that no matter how long you've been together, there's always the possibility of learning something new about your spouse.

#2: Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
It's hard to describe this book without it sounding boring, so you'll just have to trust me that it's excellent. This novel is the story of two couples, from the time they meet as newlyweds to the death of one of the foursome. Although the book is very much about friendship, there is a lot in here about both of their marriages, the good and the bad. It's clear that so much of what makes a marriage -- or a friendship -- last a lifetime has to do not with large gestures but how they handle the everyday ups and downs of life. There is an overriding message throughout the book about "what really matters" in life (prestige? happiness? security?), and by taking the long view, the book shows how the strength of one's relationships matter far more than anything else. The writing is beautiful, and even though there's no huge drama or climax to the book, it contains a lot to think about regarding life, friendship, and marriage.

#3: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
This book could be classified as a "Christian romance novel," though it was edited a lot to make it "appropriate" for Christian bookstores (because, you know, married Christians having sex is totally scandalous). It's based on the Biblical book of Hosea, which is often cited as an allegory for God's unconditional love for humanity. Although it's not without its problems ("God totally told me to make you marry me"), the message of marriage as a commitment of unconditional love is one that resonates with me. The main character marries a prostitute who believes that all any man, including him, could possibly want from her is sex. Even when she goes back to prostitution (as in the book of Hosea), he insists that there's nothing she could do to make him want to end his marriage to her. The story is that of her learning to accept that she is loveable, and the two of them learning to make their somewhat unusual, God-appointed marriage work.

What are your favorite books about making marriage work?

Click here for other 3BoT posts, or check out my Goodreads account for more in-depth reviews and recommendations.

Please note that this post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you click on a book cover and make any purchase at Amazon (including but not limited to the books suggested here), your purchase will be supporting Faith Permeating Life. Thanks!


  1. I love your description of Crossing to Safety. Yep, it sounds pretty boring. But what a great book!

  2. Marriage Rules by Harriet Lerner. It should be mandatory reading for anyone in pre-marital counseling.

  3. Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix would be excellent for a couple having serious trouble getting along. If your troubles are less serious, but you find yourselves having the same basic argument repeatedly for years and feeling frustrated at the lack of progress (that's us!), then most of the ideas will be helpful, and some of the exercises will feel silly in a way that makes you realize the problems you DON'T have and feel grateful! :-) It is the only relationship self-help book I've ever read that didn't have a single part that made me want to throw it across the room.

    1. That sounds great! Thanks for the recommendation!


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